Follow Your Passion? No. Follow The Money

You’ve heard the one about how millenials are entitled, spoiled, terrible as employees, and disrespecting of authority? How we’re all so lazy that many of us still live with our parents and that we all think we’re too good to sort the mail? At Harvard Business Review, Cal Newport argues that it all comes back to our false expectations.

Newport explains that “follow your passion,” became the rallying cry for our generation, but that the phrase creates “an alternate universe where there’s a perfect job waiting for you, one that you’ll love right away once you discover it.” The phrase made it seem like we’d be happy right out of the gates, he argues, but that was never going to be the case.

I think Newport makes a good point, but I think he misses something important by not identifying how this fantasy — that if you follow your passion, happiness and a livelihood will follow suit — pervaded. We were lied to.

You know who told us to follow our passions? Everyone. School. Society. Government. Banks. The people who encouraged us to take out student loans, the people who promised us that we’d have jobs after college with which to pay those loans back, the people who said the economy was going to keep on growing and keep on getting better. I don’t think anyone thought they were lying, but it was a societal lie, based on a broken economy.

Today’s young people made decisions based on a false promise of a false economy that has come crumbling down. I’m not that interested in the narrative that we should blush for being so gullible, hang our heads for being so hopeful. Because not everyone has been hurt by our broken economy. Just those of us who bought into it without the proper safety net.

Newport argues that the conversation about the future needs to change, that “following your passion” is over, that “we need the right direction for investing this energy.” He doesn’t suggest what this direction should be. For many young people, trying to move out of their parents’ houses and scraping enough together to make student loan payments seems to be one direction worth pursuing for now. For others, it’s taking to the streets.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.